The dispute is about DVD encryption. Basically, it’s legal for documentary filmmakers to use snippets of copyrighted films in their own movies, under a provision of copyright law known as fair use. The weird part, though, is that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) of 1998 makes it illegal for them to break the encryption on DVDs in order to get at the video.
A lot of schools use a “learning management system” called Blackboard to make course materials and registration functions available online. If you’ve ever used Blackboard, though, you know that it’s like a magic portal back to 1999.
Blackboard’s design is truly hideous (frames everywhere!), the options for customizing course sites are dismal, and the interface makes even the simplest functions baffling. (Google “I hate Blackboard” for some entertaining commentary.) The City University of New York recently got an object lesson in Blackboard’s shortcomings when the system crashed and burned, paralyzing CUNY’s online functions.
Google Book Search has been in the news lately for a settlement it made with the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers over Google’s plan to scan books. You may have heard that people are pretty worked up about the settlement.
It matters for academics because the settlement will in large part dictate the terms under which many books are available online.
If you’re confused about the settlement, you’re not alone. I’ve been wading through blog posts and news items trying to get my head around what’s in the agreement. Here’s my best effort at a description of what’s going on, for us non-insiders. I can’t promise all the details are 100% accurate, and please correct me if I’m mistaken, but this is my understanding.
A film class needs film. Duh. Close-analysis of film clips is an important part of teaching sections, and nobody wants to mess with scanning DVD chapters to find the right clip. So most TAs I know make clip reels — DVDs of clips — to show in class.
I was interested to see that the Society for Cinema and Media Studies has issued a statement of best practices for fair use (the doctrine that covers this area of copyright law). As far as clip reels are concerned, SCMS has this to say: